Saved by the test
Posted on 18 August 2015
When Nicole Jacobs* went for her annual Pap smear, she was taken by surprise. Fairly aggressive cancerous cells were found in her cervix, but since it was detected early she was able to receive prompt and successful treatment.
‘I was shocked. I had no symptoms and felt absolutely fine, which is why cervical cancer is called the silent killer. It’s only thanks to the Pap smear that my problem was detected. Had it not been for that little test, I could well have been dead by now,’ explains the Pretoria-based freelance writer.
‘I’d just turned 38, and since I’ve been going for my Pap every year, I had no reason for concern. When my gynaecologist called me a few days later and asked me to come in again as she needed to talk to me, I knew something wasn’t right.’
Nicole’s test results showed abnormalities: there were stage-three, pre-cancerous legions in her cervix and her gynaecologist recommended she have these surgically removed without delay.
‘My doctor cut out the cancerous cells under general anesthetic, investigated for further abnormalities and found more cancerous cells in my uterus. She removed a small part of my cervix and a small part of my uterus. But she left me in perfectly good health and I went home after having spent only one night in hospital.’
Nicole considers herself lucky. Had the cancerous cells moved up towards her spine, her condition could well have been inoperable. ‘This is why it’s crucial to go for this very simple test so you increase your opportunities of catching cancer early and avoiding chemotherapy as I did,’ says Nicole who makes a point of encouraging her female friends and colleagues to go for regular testing.
‘My husband and I don’t want children, so I opted to be sterilised at the same time,’ adds Nicole, whose gynaecologist explained that in theory she would still be able to bear children, but that pregnancy and birth would most likely have been difficult.
‘It made me think that if you really do want children, there’s even more reason to go for a regular Pap smear test. Generally people don’t think it could happen to them or that they’re too young, but I strongly believe it’s just one of those check-up tests that you just have to have,’ urges Nicole. ‘Many women find the test unpleasant, but the alternative could be a lot worse.’
*Name changed to respect the patient’s privacy.